September 4, 2013

Riding the Review Roller-coaster

By Karen Witemeyer

One of the biggest adjustments for me as I transitioned from unpublished to published author came in learning how to handle reviews. Listening to a critique of your work is never easy. Anyone who has entered a writing contest and received feedback can attest to that. But when your book is published and available for public consumption, your feedback no longer comes to you in the privacy of an email. Now it comes in public forums for the whole world to see.

So how do you handle the ups and downs of books reviews?

Option 1 - Avoid the roller-coaster all together
Some authors have wonderful self-control and simply elect not to read reviews. Positive or negative. If you can resist the curiosity burning in your brain, this is a wise option. The good reviews won't puff you up with false pride and the bad reviews won't destroy your confidence with their stinging criticism.

Option 2 – Stay on the kiddie coaster
You don't want to get discouraged, so you opt to read only the 4-5 star reviews on Amazon and the blog reviews that are written by people you know. While this option offers a lot of encouragement and warm fuzzies, I would caution against it because it's too easy to start believing your own press. When you read only gushing, glowing reviews, you start to feel like you've arrived. You've mastered the craft. This attitude can be destructive to an author's career. If you're not constantly growing and seeking to improve, you become stagnant and predictable and lose the spark that earned those glowing reviews in the first place.

Option 3 – Hang on and enjoy the ride
This is the option I prefer, though the ride can get pretty bumpy. The highs are breathtaking and glorious, but the lows are just around the corner. The key to enjoying the review roller-coaster is to face it with as much objectivity as possible and to armor your heart in advance. No matter how fabulous your characters, how action-packed your plot, or how stellar your craft, there will be readers who don't like your book. Accept that fact now and gird your loins for the reviews those readers will write. Yes, they will still hurt. But if you've prepared in advance you can read them with enough objectivity to look for nuggets of truth that will help you improve your writing in your next novel.

One other note I will mention about reviews: NEVER respond to a negative review. No matter how careful you are, it almost always comes across as defensive or as a case of sour grapes. If you need to commiserate with someone, do so in private with a critique partner or a trusted friend, but train yourself in first aid so you can bandage the wound and move on. Who knows, maybe you’ll laugh with your writing friends and brag about finally getting your first 1 star review as an author’s rite of passage.

Winner of both the ACFW Carol Award and HOLT Medallion, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing that the world needs more happily-ever-afters. Her books include Stealing the Peacher, A Tailor-Made Bride, Short-Straw Bride, To Win Her Heart, and Head In the CloudsShe is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:

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